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Business School and Your Learning Agenda

  • by John
  • Aug 15, 2012
  • GRE Blog

by Stacy Blackman Consulting

Stacy Blackman“You want to go to business school? So what do you want to learn?”

It seems a simple enough inquiry, but applicants often have a very difficult time responding to it. When we went to college, interviewers might ask us about our intended major, but we could craft a pretty broad answer.

In business school, we’re ALL business majors, so we have to have a more defined message to stand out. It’s not enough to say, “I want to learn more about accounting, finance and marketing.” You will learn about those subjects. And so will the hundreds of other folks who enter with you. They’re called “Required Courses.”

Instead of painting with the broad brush, you will need to put a finer point on things in order to prove that you are a serious applicant who has determined that business school is THE logical next step in a career progression. To some people, business school is just a rite of passage or a brand name to add to the resume. But remember, there are people at b-schools who are spending thousands of man-hours developing course materials and standing in front of semi-comatose students, all in the name of “learning.” So, you better know what you want to learn.

If you have a certain “spike” or element of strength in your candidacy, you may choose to develop it further. You may have worked in marketing for the last four years, but realize you want to further your knowledge of youth brand building and unconventional sales channel development because of a certain entrepreneurial idea you have, for instance.

Or, you may have areas you’ve identified as gaps in your professional skillset. Perhaps you’ve been an investment banker for three years and have developed a deep understanding of valuation and debt finance. But, in order to be a part of the LBO industry after b-school, you want to shore up your skills analyzing industrial operations or navigating business law.

Think about the kinds of articles you click to online, or the ones you tear out of Fortune or Business 2.0 to read later. Talking about those kinds of topics will lead you to develop sections of essays and answers to interview questions that are compelling and well-researched. You may want to introduce your interests in an essay like this:

  • “I’m fascinated by the ways brands like Apple have been rolled out in new cultures.”
  • “I have seen the power of internal incentives on organizational behavior and I want to understand them as a management tool.”
  • “I’m impressed by the way top-flight organizations like Starbucks are able to maintain their high levels of customer service.”
  • “In an interconnected world, I want to learn how supply chains can be a competitive advantage.”

Coming up with a short list of subjects that fascinate you can help you research course offerings, research initiatives and clubs at the schools of your choice.

Think about your learning agenda in terms of:

  • Subject areas: More specific than “marketing.” We mean “brand development,” “channel creation,” or “pricing.”
  • Methodologies: Not “financial modeling,” but rather “valuation techniques” or “earnings forecasting.”
  • Industries: Technology, health care or consumer products. Better yet, get a little more specific with market segments like “security technologies,” “new health care service models,” or “branded luxury products.” These are still megabillion dollar industrieswith plenty of opportunities for innovation.
  • Geographies: Are you well-versed in organizational behavior as applied to U.S. companies? Well maybe you want to learn about the differences in India, the Middle East or Latin America. Or maybe you want to learn about investing in China or Canada. You will have plenty of classmates and case materials to help you learn about these different economies.


Founded in 2001, Stacy Blackman Consulting ( helped thousands of MBA applicants gain admission to the most selective business schools in the world.  The Stacy Blackman team, comprised of MBA graduates, former admissions officers and expert writers, editors and marketers, helps clients develop and implement a winning marketing strategy.  Stacy Blackman clients have a significantly increased probability of admission to top schools and are frequent recipients of merit scholarships.  The company is regularly featured in publications such as BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal and the Economist.   Visit the Stacy Blackman blog ( for daily news updates and admissions tips, and check out the company’s e-publications for more in depth school by school guidance (

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